Tag Archive for C. S. Lewis

The Power of Influence: C. S. Lewis

As you read each post in this series,
I hope you’ll think with gratitude about those who have influenced you, and
I hope you’ll ponder your investment in the lives of others.

I am a huge fan of audio books and have been for many years. That’s how I first came to know the writing of C. S. Lewis (1898-1963). At present I own recordings of 25 books by him and another five books about him.  I’ve listened to most of them multiple times. He is easily my favorite extra-biblical author.

I’m including him among my major influencers, even though I never met him. I’ve written elsewhere about how his ideas on reason and imagination have enlightened me (see Reason and Imagination). But that’s only one of the ways his writing has enriched my thought and my life.

When I began reading and listening to his books, the first thing that struck me was how clearly he thought and wrote. He dealt with complex ideas and chains of reasoning with amazing clarity and simplicity. That’s what I need to do as a hymn writer. Hymns must express complex and lofty ideas in a way that is understandable and natural for the average lay person. C. S. Lewis shows that it can be done and points the way. For me, his apologetic works do this best, especially Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, and Miracles.

I rarely read or listen to fiction, but Lewis is a shining exception. His fiction inspires me to see the world from a broader, loftier perspective. His stories give me hope. He unselfconsciously shows Almighty God working His loving will in the real, physical world in which we live. Again, this points the way for my hymns. His Chronicles of Narnia are justly famous along this line, but I love The Great Divorce for the same reason. And don’t miss his space trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. For years I avoided them, thinking that science fiction written before 1960 would seem primitive. How very wrong I was!

The Screwtape Letters is still unique after all these years. How could a book on so dark a subject as temptation be so whimsical and even funny? Writing can be both entertaining and profoundly meaningful!

But the main reason I find C. S. Lewis so enriching is his insightfulness. With most books, even excellent ones, you are likely to get fresh, provocative insights only every once in a while. With Lewis, the insights are an almost continuous stream. My impression is that this comes not just from his great mind and great heart, but from the fact that he read deeply and widely. He seemed to synthesize insights gleaned from the entire body of Christian literature.

It’s not surprising that Lewis has inspired a number of my hymns. To give them a look and listen, just click on the links below. Both the printed copies and the downloadable recordings are free (see the upper right-hand quadrant for the “Listen” link).

Christ Is Come
Ever Full and Overflowing
God My Father
Longing for Jesus
Our Lord I AM
See the Father Walk Among Us
The Heart of Christ
We Choose Joy
What Will You Do with Jesus?
You Came to Us

Reason and Imagination

As a believer, and especially as a creative communicator, consider the truth that you are called to communicate:

We are caught up in the love of a Father for His Son and the love of a Son for His Father. They have poured out their Spirit upon us so that we can share their union—not in a theoretical or someday sense, but now, in our minds, hearts, and lives. The Father, Son, and Spirit all interact with us and draw us into themselves.

Art serves these truths well…and by art, I mean not only music and graphics but any means of creative communication, including speaking. Art is an emotional expression. It marries

the objective and the subjective,
truth and personal experience,
fact and emotion,
information and inspiration,
analysis and passion,
reason and imagination.

C.S. Lewis, my favorite extra-biblical writer, said

Poetry calls passion to the aid of reason.

I apply that to my own writing:

Hymns call passion to the aid of reason.

But I think it could apply more generally as well:

Art calls passion to the aid of reason.

For my taste, too much art today—particularly music—focuses on temporary and shallow emotional stimulation. Don’t settle for that! Our truth deserves and demands more! Art can and should do so much more! Art can stimulate mentally and spiritually as well as emotionally. It can grip the mind as well as the heart.

Paul urged the Corinthian church to focus on content in their shared worship, not just emotional outpouring:

I will pray with the spirit and
I will pray with the mind also;
I will sing with the spirit and
I will sing with the mind also.
(1 Corinthians 14:15, NASB)

Whatever your medium of expression, study and absorb those in your field who have best touched both mind and heart. For me as a hymnwriter, that is Charles Wesley. Learn from the best! Let them inspire you to find your own means of expressing the truth and beauty that is Jesus Christ.